A proposal to remove felony charges for personal drug possession in Washington State will be prefiled in the House of Representatives this December, with State Representative Sherry Appleton (23rd District) as the primary sponsor. Representatives Jim Moeller (Speaker Pro Tempore, 49th District), Joe Fitzgibbon (34th District), Chris Reykdal (22nd District) and Jessyln Farrell (Assistant Majority Whip, 46th District) will be among those cosponsoring the proposal.
Sensible Washington, the nonprofit organization behind the effort, is in talks with numerous other lawmakers and plans to have a companion bill filed in the Senate.
Under current Washington State law, the possession of over 40 grams of cannabis, or a minuscule amount of any other controlled substance, is a felony charge with a potential 5 year prison sentence. This new proposal would alter the law so that these possession charges would be misdemeanors (with a 90 day maximum sentence), unless intent to distribute is proven. This would greatly decrease the social and economic impact of felonizing low-level drug offenses, which leads to the mass imprisonment of nonviolent individuals at taxpayer expense.
“The public understands that our drug laws are failing, and that action needs to be taken,” says Anthony Martinelli, Sensible Washington’s Communications Director, “defelonization is a major step in fixing these laws, while also accounting for those in the public who want illegal drugs to remain illegal.”
Sensible Washington is in the process of building further public and legislative support for the proposal, and will be announcing more cosponsors in the coming days and weeks.